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Second opinions sometimes uncover misdiagnoses

There are various steps a person might take after being told by their doctor that they have a serious condition. One is to get a second opinion. Sometimes, a second opinion reveals that the initial diagnosis was off.

A recent study looked at the discovery of previous misdiagnoses during second opinions. The study was by the Mayo Clinic. In the study, researchers reviewed hundreds of instances in which a patient received a diagnosis from their primary care provider and then sought a second opinion from the internal medicine department of the Mayo Clinic. The researchers looked at how the second opinion compared to the initial diagnosis.

The study found that, in a majority of the cases, the second opinion and the initial diagnosis partially matched. Meanwhile, in 12 percent of the cases, there was a full match between the two. Finally, in 21 percent of the cases, the second opinion came to a conclusion that was "distinctly different" from the initial diagnosis.

Now, these findings dealt with a very specific patient population, and thus don't paint a complete picture of the accuracy of initial diagnoses. However, the findings do fall in line with other research that indicates that misdiagnoses aren't terribly uncommon.

The findings also underscore the important role that second opinions can play for individuals who have been diagnosed with a serious condition.

Now, when a person discovers (through a second opinion or other means) that they were misdiagnosed, many pieces of information can be critical.

It can be very important to determine the effects of the misdiagnosis. Some misdiagnoses end up having relatively minor impacts on a patient. Others expose their victims to serious harm or death. It can also be critical to identify the cause of the misdiagnosis. Some missed diagnoses are just the result of the difficulties of the diagnostic process. Others, however, come about through mistakes by doctors. Arizonans who received an incorrect diagnosis can go to skilled medical malpractice lawyers for help with uncovering these important details. Such lawyers can also provide such individuals with explanations of what impacts these details have on their legal options.

Source: The Washington Post, "20 percent of patients with serious conditions are first misdiagnosed, study says," Lenny Bernstein, April 4, 2017

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